Intelligent automation – rapid help in times of crisis

Intelligent automation – rapid help in times of crisis

September 1, 2023

How blending RPA and AI solutions can boost performance fast

Companies are currently facing high pressure to cut costs and become more efficient. Multiple crises – from economic and political insecurity to increasing energy costs – are forcing them to make significant savings if they want to remain competitive and survive. Often, their approach is to cut budgets, lay off staff and put long-planned improvement or automation projects on a backburner. However, many businesses already lag behind on automation and process efficiency. Short-term cuts mean that cost-intensive automation and efficiency enhancement projects with future technologies that companies should be making, never get off the ground. But although this gives them some leeway in the short term, ultimately it has the opposite effect from what they set out to achieve, leading to further deterioration in corporate efficiency in the medium and long term.

"The Roland Berger approach to intelligent automation empowers companies to make investments in automation that have an immediate effect on profit and loss account as well as on organizational effectiveness and process efficiency – and a return-on-investment period of just two to six months."
Portrait of Tom Gellrich
Senior Partner
Frankfurt Office, Central Europe

AI meets RPA

The ongoing revolution in artificial intelligence (AI) technology, particularly generative AI applications such as ChatGPT, opens up exciting new possibilities for automation. But it also puts pressure on companies to think about how they can leverage the new technology in order to stay competitive and cope with ongoing and future disruption. At Roland Berger, we offer a unique and proven Performance Improvement approach to reduce costs, increase process and organizational efficiency and improve automation. Our key to success is Intelligent Automation, which is an integral part in our performance improvement projects and more than 70% of our customers adopt it.

Intelligent automation – or IA, not to be confused with AI – is where artificial intelligence meets robotic process automation (RPA). RPA is a type of software that imitates human mouse-clicks and keystrokes on a computer screen, automating high-volume, routine tasks that were previously performed by human back-office workers. On its own, RPA, whilst effective, cannot release the full potential of automation. Doing so requires more intelligent capabilities, ranging from image recognition to independent analyses or text understanding via natural language processing. More advanced forms of generative AI are also potential game-changers. ChatGPT, for instance, can create new content and take decisions, broadening the range of use cases for AI to areas such as automated marketing content creation and customer communication.

Delivering efficiency gains – fast

Intelligent automation is a tried-and-tested tool for immediately improving performance, both in times of crises and beyond. Its smart mix of robotics and AI is already widely used by businesses: At Roland Berger we see how the technology adds value in almost every performance project we support. It also represents an important tool in the Roland Berger Performance Improvement Toolbox, as it enhances business performance quickly and effectively with savings potentials of up to 50% without the need for lengthy and often cost-intensive IT projects.

From our experience, we see the following key advantages of intelligent automation:

"Intelligent Automation is key to achieving technological excellence and efficiency gains in Performance Optimization programs without sacrificing on service levels and quality."
Portrait of Johannes Viehhauser
Munich Office, Central Europe

Proven efficiency gains of up to 50 percent in back-office functions and 30 percent in front-office tasks with immediately visible impact on P&L

No need for long-term IT projects, with implementation times of just four to eight weeks

Low Capex with payback periods (ROI) often as low as two to six months

Mitigation of staff shortages through use of robots

Basis for introducing and scaling up AI, particularly generative AI solutions

Automation heatmap – selected use cases for intelligent automation

"With intelligent automation, we enable companies to identify tangible use cases for AI and bring them to life with little effort."
Portrait of Carsten Rossbach
Senior Partner
Frankfurt Office, Central Europe

Roland Berger approach to intelligent automation

Organizations need to act fast to implement intelligent automation in order to gain competitive advantages and not to fall behind competition. The question is, how? At Roland Berger we offer a holistic approach to performance improvement. We successfully support more than 50 automation projects annually in companies around the globe, working side-by-side with clients from initial idea generation to final implementation. Our database of 200+ use cases based on this work allows us to identify potential areas for automation in each function of a company right from Day One.

Our approach involves taking an end-to-end view of the company's current processes, systematically screening them to identify which ones show the greatest potential for automation. This helps us avoid "siloed" projects that do not deliver benefits right across the organization. Systematically identifying potential across the value chain also allows us to unleash the full power of intelligent automation. Speed and agility of execution are vital in times of crisis, so we take a "start small and scale fast" approach, using "efficiency sprints" to rapidly bring to life the first use cases – namely those with the biggest immediate impact on cost reduction.

Case study: Implementing IA in a service industry company

A company in the service industry was facing strong competition and cost pressure due to a combination of reduced customer demand, increased costs, and limited possibility of passing on these costs to customers. The business suffered from an inefficient process landscape and the planned SAP S4/Hana implementation was delayed by years. The company was not using any form of AI and had no experience with the topic.

To solve this problem, we conducted a digital functional analysis, to identify tied-up personnel capacities in each process step and assess processes from a qualitative perspective. On this basis we identified the 10 best candidates for intelligent automation that showed the greatest efficiency potential and most promising business cases. To realize immediate savings, we chose the three best candidates and carried out implementation sprints over the course of eight weeks. Therewith, we were able to achieve efficiency gains of 45% at an ROI of two to eight month.

Automated management of employee master data and administration

Impact: Approximately 70 percent of requests automated and 45 percent of employees released to work in other areas

ROI: Five to six months

Standardization and automation of offers/quotes

Impact: Of a total of 150,000 quotes, 90,000 could be performed by a bot; 15-fold increase in speed; manual work for manual quotes reduced by 40 percent; more than ten percent of employees freed up

ROI: Two to three months

- Automated content creation for outbound marketing, including social media messages, images and videos

Impact: Approximately fifteen percent of employees released

ROI: Six to eight months

Overall, the company reduced its personnel costs fast, while at the same time improving service quality and establishing a true lighthouse project. Satisfaction rates improved for both staff and customers, creating the necessary impetus to identify further processes where intelligent automation could be implemented.


Want to boost your performance fast with the help of intelligent automation? Let us help you kickstart your automation journey and make your organization fit for the future. Together, we will identify and quantify your overall automation potential, select the technologies that fit your specific situation best and launch your first automation projects.

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